Williamsburg cafe Sands has temporarily closed after owner Guy Sands received “organized threats,” he says — a barrage that started following a viral tweet alleging that he is affiliated with racist, white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys. He denies the associations.
The tweet points to a Vanity Fair article naming Sands as an attendee at a 2016 party thrown by controversial alt-right media figurehead Milo Yiannopoulos following his ban from Twitter — “I’ve always been a contrarian,” Sands tells the VF reporter. The tweet, sent on September 25, also accuses Sands of running an alt-right Twitter account before opening the Brooklyn cafe. The writer of the tweet did not respond to requests for comment, though Eater has confirmed that the Sands named in the article is also the owner of the cafe.
WHATS UP NYC PLEASE DONT SUPPORT THIS SHMUCK pic.twitter.com/iO2YIzsWfz— Colin Hagendorf (@ColinHagendorf) September 25, 2018
The message quickly picked up steam and was shared more than 700 times across the platform. It has spread to other social media platforms like Instagram, too. More than a dozen negative reviews have since appeared on the cafe’s Yelp page, bringing its overall rating down to 2.5 stars. (There were only six reviews before the tweet.) The first-ever review was recorded this month, suggesting the cafe at 855 Grand St. is a new face on the block.
Sands, a registered Republican in Greenpoint, denies that he is affiliated with any white supremacist group, telling Eater that the social media firestorm has put his new business and family in danger. He opted to close the coffee shop on Wednesday.
“I do not associate or identify with these groups in any way,” he writes in an email. “Sands welcomes everybody.”
Most Yelpers are telling Sands to take his business elsewhere and encouraging diners not to visit:
If you like your food with a side of neo-Nazi nonsense, this is the restaurant for you! The owner of this dumpster fire is a Proud Boy. White supremacy has no place in Brooklyn. - Marie G. of Brooklyn
Owned by a white supremacist. Take your business elsewhere. Would give 0 stars if possible. - Nick W. of Bed-Stuy
Yelp has since flagged the business’ page online, announcing that reviews motivated by “news coverage” rather than the reviewers’ personal experience as a consumer will be removed. Some people must’ve noticed — the most recent reviews target the cafe’s food instead. “Terrible soggy eggs, and rude service. Need to train staff better. Will not be going back any time soon,” one reviewer writes.
Sands says Yelp and Google have agreed to take down the reviews, and that he’s further “seeking legal counsel for slander and damages.” No word yet on when he plans to reopen the cafe.